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Sudan: What will be the new name for Southern Sudan?

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 January to 15 January 2011 on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become Africa's new independent state.

As of 27 January 2011, preliminary results showed that 98.81% of voters are in favor of secession while 1.19% are in favor of unity. Final results will be announced early February.

Since it is almost certain that Southern Sudan will secede, what will be the new name for Africa's new child? In this podcast, Marvis Birungi talks to the Minister of Information of Southern Sudan, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, about the country's name, anthem, flag and emblem. Dr. Benjamin sits on the steering committee which is working on the name of the country among other issues.

Maggie Fick, blogging from Southern Sudan, posts links to interesting articles that have delved into a variety of referendum-related topics:

Now that I’m on a reporting trip in Northern Bahr al Ghazal state—away from the referendum fever that has continued to reign in Juba—I’ve been slowly working through a stockpile of interesting articles from the past week or so that have delved into a variety of referendum-related topics, including the looming process of nation-state formation in the south. Although I’m too disorganized to commit to a weekly round-up post on my blog, find below a basic “links I dug” plus quotes from these articles that made me think. Given the slow ‘net speed where I am (plus my blog-technology-ineptitude), I’m simply pasting the URLs below instead of hyperlinking them; I realize this is unacceptable in the blogosphere so sorry for this.

Dadakim is amazed by a huge turnout rate of 97.6% of Southern Sudan voters in Dallas, Texas. She writes, “I’ve never heard of an election with such high participation rates (even in Australia, where voting is compulsory).” She continues:

I tried to learn as much as I could about the people who didn’t show up to vote. One woman had come up from Houston on Saturday with all the documents she used to register to vote (including her passport). She had lost her registration card and was hoping these documents would convince the polling staff to allow her to vote. Just as the rules required, she was turned away. Another woman came to the center with the registration card of her relative (as well as her own). She wanted to cast a vote for him because he was in jail. She too, was denied her request (she was, of course, allowed to cast her own vote). There were stories of others deployed in the US Army, sick and in hospital, or others who had lost their registration cards.

Suleiman Rahhal, Chairman of Nuba Mountains Democratic Forum, asks, “Why Are The Nuba Protesting?” Nuba is a collective term used for the peoples who inhabit the Nuba Mountains, in the states of Southern Sudan.

He argues that the Nuba need to be given the right to self-determination:

The indigenous people of the Nuba Mountains are extremely concerned that international concentration on South Sudan’s independence referendum has meant other crucial aspects of Sudan’s so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) have been neglected. The CPA stopped the brutal civil war in the South, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and as such was initially greatly welcomed by people of the Nuba Mountains, despite failing to recognise their claims and their aspirations. However, the CPA does not only apply to the South. Separate protocols call for a referendum in the disputed Abyei district and for “popular consultation” in the two contested areas, the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The Nuba had for long years been voicing their deep concern over their lack of collective rights, including the crucial right to self-determination.

Their claim for self-determination, he notes, is based on their long history of political and economic marginalization:

The fact that Nuba were not present at the peace talks meant their claims were brushed away and compromised. For example, the historical name on the world maps ‘Nuba Mountains’ which has great meaning to the Nuba people. During the peace talks the name was replaced by Southern Kordofan, so as to accommodate the Messiriya Baggara tribe of the former state of West Kordofan, which was incorporated into the new state. The right of self-determination is at the core of the Nuba’s claims. This claim for self-determination is based on their experience of struggle as part of the SPLA/M; long history of political and economic marginalisation; ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination; dispossession of land, tradition and customs and finally poor education, political and economic opportunities since independence 1956. These are the factors which led to the conflict in the Nuba Mountains.

Responding to Suleiman's post, Samani says that the arguments he put forward are both ludicrous and illogical:

If every group of people that see themselves as ‘cohesiveness and distinctiveness’ called for self-determination or Secession then there would be no need for countries and we should all go back to live as tribes ! Other then Israel no other country in the world is based on race, ethnicity or religion. Surely Mr. Suleiman Rahhal if you are Sudanese and Muslim you would be familiar with our belief that God created us different so we mix, integrate and utilize each others differences, cultures and experiences to better mankind. How many distinct peoples and groups live in the Sudan (North) today, would you suggest each group ask for self determination.

Another reader, David Barsoum, disagrees with Suleiman's position. He says that the Nuba are part of the whole Sudanese fabric:

What intirgues me in Rahal’s argument is how”exclusive” he is?He draws the”Nuba” out of context altogether,and restricts them to Nuba Mountains,thus severing any ties with the other parts of Sudan,this is contrary to history. Where did these Nuba come from and what links them to North Sudan do not feature in his thoughts. Well historically these Nuba are related to the Nuba of the North and if they withdrew to where they are before after the collapse of the ancient kingdoms of the North,it was for reasons best explained by the historians, notably, Basil Davidson.This is as far history is concerned. The Nuba are part of the whole Sudanese fabric,researchers have been trying to identify lingustic similarities between the languages of the Nuba Mountains and the present day language of the Nubians in the North.

Giorgio Musso wonders if the referendum would trigger the quest for self-determination in Africa and the rest of the world:

Among the many issues which are being discussed in the aftermath of Southern Sudan’s self-determination referendum, the “domino effect” which could be triggered in Africa and the rest of the world is one of the most worrisome. Analysts and journalists have warned that from Western Sahara to Nepal, from Zanzibar to Mindanao, secessionist movements and guerrillas could draw further strength from the success of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). As a matter of fact, the eventuality of a secessionist wave seems unlikely if we consider the situation with a more balanced attitude: fears of a domino effect have been a constant during similar events in the past, but the independences of Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Kosovo have not shaken the world as they were expected to do.

Finally, Sudan Vote Monitor, an initiative that utilizes information and communication technology to support independent monitoring and reporting of the referendum, has released a summary report for January 13 – 20:

Reports from January 13 – 15 (while voting was still taking place) are mostly positive, with reports indicating a peaceful voting process in Khartoum, Juba, Eastern Equatoria, Northern Bahr ElGhazal an

This post is part of our special coverage South Sudan Referendum 2011.

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